Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Ain't it good to be alive?"

I was reminded, lately, by a very good friend indeed, of a pearl of wisdom that I once cast before the swine.  He reported that I once said, "The greatest thing about life is that even when it sucks, it's so good".  Last night, for reasons I'll leave unexplained here, I needed to hear this, having forgotten that I said it in the first place, and lately, having forgotten its essential truth. I fear The Rolling Stones would agree.
This post has been a long time coming. Originally, it was to be a martial post, all blood and war, sturm und  drang.  It was inspired by a quote I had read on the verge of sleep the night before, "He swore this terrible oath: 'Hook or me this time'".  Hook or me, this time.  I muttered that terrible oath, with some vague substitution for the name Hook, to myself, and sleep overtook me. The simplicity, the brutality of the quote appealed to me, the flat out declaration of total war. 
I had decided to declare my intent to fight, or to die trying. I would answer the enemy as Governor-General Frontenac had answered the English request to surrender in 1690: "Non, je n'ai point de réponse à faire à votre général que par la bouche de mes canons et de mes fusils".  It was to be a warning, a declaration to the world that war was upon it, that the horsemen had ridden, and to make ready, and to tremble.
Alas, I realized, not necessarily on my own, that my terrible oath, my sworn duty to press the enemy, to hound at ever turn and to seize every opportunity, would cause far more damage than I was willing to inflict on the world, and on myself.  War is not a pretty thing, and euphemisms of collateral damage and acceptable casualties aside, I cannot bring myself to believe that all is in fact fair in love and war. One must always consider the consequences of one's actions. Lately, taking solace in the notion that in humankind's two greatest endeavours, no quarter is asked nor given, I have done things that, in retrospect, I am not overly proud of. Having lost the moral high ground, I find my defensive position to be ever more untenable. The enemy, faults aside, has become the better man (may have been from the beginning, truth be told) and that weighs heavily on my heart. Collectively, perhaps, at the heart of it, we are not animals, and maybe, just maybe, I shouldn't act like one.
To some, this would appear to be a surrender. Have I given up, gentle reader? Have I acknowledged that I have lost?  I'm not convince that that is true. Maybe I'm changing the game. Like the early Christian before me, maybe I'm subverting the drama of the arena, making my surrender more powerful than the perceived victory of the Roman could ever be. Maybe, in turning the other cheek, in throwing in the towel, I can reclaim some of that high ground, and I can rest more easily. To lose is not always to be defeated, and to surrender is not alway to quit. Knowing that life, as much as it might occasionally suck, really is pretty good, sorta helps, too.

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